Listening to FOXnews on Sunday evening, January 6, I was impressed by the oceans of venom that greeted the nomination of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. At 6:30 PM, the usually sober Brit Hume remarked for the umpteenth time that this “nominee was a strange choice” and one who was clearly unsuited for the position he sought. I then listened to Bill Kristol tell us how shocked he was by Obama’s appointment. According to Kristol, the President should have nominated “someone else,” including a Democratic feminist who Kristol deemed to be good on “defense needs” (read bending to the will of the Likud coalition in Israel). The other panelists in a discussion group on FOX that followed the evening news deferred to the smirking Weekly Standard editor, who spent about ten minutes dumping on the nominee, without ever taking the grin off his face.
After this display of animosity, we got to see several Israeli dignitaries rage against Hagel as an enemy of the Jewish state. We then beheld the “conservative” Senator from South Carolina Lindsay Graham, indicating that he would never vote for this odious nominee. (John Podhoretz in the New York Post actually referred to the same person as an “ugly choice.”) Although, unlike Graham, Hagel was a decorated warrior during the Vietnam War, it seems that Chuck could not meet Graham’s exacting patriotic standards. We know that Graham is a special kind of patriot because he predictably supports John McCain, every time that Arizona senator calls for military action somewhere in the Solar System. Like McCain, Graham slams other politicians who, in his judgment, do not back the Israeli government unconditionally at all times.
Fox also gave time to the newly elected “Tea Party” Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. This rising GOP star expressed his well-rehearsed indignation over Hagel’s insufficient belligerence. By now there may be other GOP politicians who are hungering for exposure on FOX as opponents of Hagel. I recall that until this exhibition of “rightwing” disapproval, the same people who are skewing Hagel, namely the neoconservatives and other members of the Rupert Murdoch media empire, were going after him as a homophobe, anti-Semite and overly fervent admirer of the onetime segregationist senator Strom Thurmond. Suddenly the neocon officers and infantry were moving the battle zone from somewhere to the left of the Village Voice into the mainstream GOP camp. But then any slander will do for what Pat Buchanan fittingly describes as the “war party”!
What we’re never told during all this staged outrage is that there are probably millions of self-identified rightists who are sick of neoconservative warmongering and slander. Of course they’re not the ones invited on to FOX or asked to write for establishment conservative (read neoconservative) publications. As someone who suffered in his career from the same kind of slander from the same group that is assailing the spirited nominee for secretary of defense, I fully sympathize with Hagel’s plight. And so do others in the marginalized conservative and libertarian camps, who are truly disgusted by what the neoconservatives have done to the American Right. Their foreign policy is no policy at all. It is a continuing invitation to send armies to wherever our neoconservative media elite decide need democratic reeducation. Had we been listening to such neocon advisees as McCain and Romney, we would be invading every country that the neocons decide to practice nation-building on.
Although Hagel went from supporting to criticizing the Iraqi War, this does not show lack of purpose. He initially deferred to a president from his party but then noticed our blunder in trying to reconstruct a country that didn’t want us to occupy it. There were other conservatives and certainly libertarians who believed the same, but GOP operatives and FOX news interpreters would never have allowed us to guess this
Pace Kristol and his gang, Hagel was entirely correct to warn us against American entanglement in Iran. Although one may disagree with his reluctance in the Senate to apply sanctions to Iran, Hagel viewed this with some justification as a gateway to military involvement. It is easy for the neoconservatives, who sit around fattening themselves in DC eateries, to call for sending hapless Americans into overseas conflicts. It is not these armchair warriors who will suffer from the consequences of their ill-conceived adventures. The targets of enemy fire will be the Hagels of this world, not the editors of the Weekly Standard or National Review or the Wall Street Journal. I recall reading an essay in Foreign Policy by Bill Kristol and his pal Robert Kagan calling for a policy of “American greatness.” This would be implemented by taking over countries and teaching them our democratic values.
Needless to say, the stout, sedentary authors of this tract do not be personally fight in the bloodbaths they push us into. The closest to the battlefield they dare expose themselves to is debating with liberal buds over drinks. But now they’ve found a form of fake war, blackening the reputation of a real military hero who doesn’t seem to enjoy foreign adventures enough for the neocon taste.
Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College and author of Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt, The Strange Death of Marxism, Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right, and Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers. His latest book, Leo Strauss and the American Conservative Movement: A Critical Appraisal, was just published by Cambridge University Press.